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I3o        HISTORY OF WESTERN EDUCATION

difference in the educational traditions of the two groups of nations.

Education in the North was everywhere in the hands of the
Church, and young Churchmen formed a large proportion of the
pupils in the schools. Hence it was a matter of course that

. ecclesiastical studies should predominate, and that the Church
authorities should claim a large share in university government.
In Italy, on the other hand, the secular view of learning had
always held its ground. There were Church schools in Italy, as
elsewhere, but the old literary studies which had commonly
become ancillary to religion in the North were there pursued for
their own sake, even by the clergy ; and what is even more signifi-
cant, the teachers in many cases were laymen. In consequence of
this, ecclesiastical studies played but a minor part in the Italian
universities: the subjects of prime interest were medicine and
law, especially law. In view of this fundamental difference it is
necessary to consider the two cases separately.

As the Italian universities had some slight priority in con-
stitutional development, we shall begin with them. The fact to
be kept in mind here is that the social and political institutions of
the Roman Empire, though undergoing various modifications,
never wholly died out in Italy. Despite successive invasions the
municipalities of earlier days continued to retain many of their
rights and privileges as autonomous bodies, and Roman citizens
remained subject to Roman law. The consequence was that,
while in the North of Europe the ruling classes were either
ecclesiastics or a feudal aristocracy—the one set mainly concerned
with religious learning, the other usually indifferent to learning of
any kind—there was a considerable number of people of superior
culture in the cities of Northern Italy belonging to neither of these
sections, who kept alive the study of letters. As time went on, the
position of the towns steadily improved. The extension of the
German Empire under Charles set them free from the earlier con-
querors of the country ; then, as the Empire weakened, they
became more and more independent, and finally, by taking diplo-
matic advantage of the conflict between the Empire and the
Church, they managed by the Eleventh Century to shake them-
selves free from both and establish themselves as self-governing
States.

So far as learning was immediately concerned, the most notable
effect of the growing power of these city States was a greatly